This week was the long-awaited fantasy suite episode, and I was really interested to see how Matt’s relationships with the last three women were going to pan out. And then the show made a disappointing move.
It started with Bri, Michelle, and Rachael talking about how excited they were to spend a night with Matt. Before we got into any dates, Matt opened up to us about commitment issues that he hasn’t come to terms with yet. Then he started getting emotional about how his commitment issues came from seeing his parents’ broken relationship while he was growing up. Before I could even process what was going on, Matt was opening his door to let his father, Manny, in. I was instantly uncomfortable. Matt made it known in the beginning of the season that he didn’t have a strong relationship with his dad growing up, so the conversation they were about to have would, at the very least, be awkward.
After some brief greetings, Matt went straight into telling his dad that his actions resulted in his inability to be vulnerable. Then, out of nowhere, we find out Manny cheated on Matt’s mom. From there, the conversation became more tense. Manny defended his actions by rationalizing that his father wasn’t in his life either. Later in the conversation, Matt told his dad how grateful he was that his mother had the courage to leave him. It felt like a conversation that none of us should’ve been a part of. Matt mentioned that he has never been able to really talk about everything with his dad like this before, so it seemed inappropriate for it to be aired on television.
The scene eventually cut to an interview where Matt broke down while explaining how his father would show up every once in a while, but never for what he needed: “I didn’t need shoes. I didn’t need pizza. I needed a dad.”
The racist stereotype of “the Black father that is never there” has been depicted in the media for years, which is damaging and wrong. I have no idea why in any world the show thought that depicting this storyline would be appropriate, particularly during the first Black Bachelor’s season. There is no way that Matt is the only lead with parents who had a messy divorce, so why did they decide to highlight this one? Seems like the franchise’s microaggressions haven’t gone anywhere. In past seasons, I constantly noticed Black contestants I adored like Jubilee Sharpe and Onyeka Ehie being portrayed as aggressive when they were doing the same things other contestants do all the time.
There’s no secret that reality television does not shy away from exploiting people’s pain for views, but this was on a completely different level, and I know that because even Matt tweeted out about how uncomfortable this was for him…
Tonightâ€™s convo with my dad was hard to experience, and itâ€™s just as hard to watch all this time later, especially knowing the world is watching with me.— Matt James (@mattjames919) March 9, 2021
I just wanted to say that too often, we see dangerous stereotypes and negative depictions of Black fathers in media. And they have consequences when presented without context https://t.co/658oxEKuxo— Matt James (@mattjames919) March 9, 2021
All I hope is that people watch that conversation with nuance, care, and also an understanding that there are real systemic issues at play. Iâ€™m so proud of myself for being vulnerable, and Iâ€™m so proud of my mother. I wouldnâ€™t be who I am without my dad. Thatâ€™s a fact.— Matt James (@mattjames919) March 9, 2021
Reading the part where he says the negative depiction of Black fathers “have consequences when presented without context,” I now suspect that the show most likely crafted this scene as something it wasn’t in its entirety. With editing, it is so easy to splice up an intense conversation between a father and a son to look the way it did. Unfortunately, not every watcher is going to view it with the understanding of the systemic issues and layers that are present here. Lots of people are probably wondering why Matt didn’t just have this conversation with his father off-camera and on his own. That’s where the manipulation of the show comes in. With Matt in such a high stress environment and his father probably just wanting to come and show support, it was the perfect recipe for this kind of conversation to happen. After all, the man is looking to get married, so it would make sense that he would finally want to have this conversation. No matter the conversation that took place, it is the show’s decision to choose what they do and do not cut into the episode. Instead of taking this opportunity to prove that they are actively making the change they have been promising for so long, they dropped the ball once again. How many times can they mess up SO badly in one season?
This is why representation throughout the WHOLE franchise is a necessity, which includes production. To a non-Black person on the editing team, this may just seem like “drama” that would attract more viewers. Maybe someone on the team even thought this scene would make Matt more likeable because it shows he’s willing to be vulnerable. As a Black viewer, I was immediately able to identify the problem. If there were enough BIPOC people in decision-making seats behind the scenes, maybe someone would’ve caught on that they shouldn’t just blatantly air out Matt and his family’s trauma without any understanding of the racial and societal impacts it could have. It’s more than “just drama” when The Bachelor has one of the biggest audiences on television. The show has a responsibility with the audience they have. Millions of people watch this show every week. The kind of careless behaviour they display time and time again shows their inability to understand the weight that their decisions have on the culture. The thought of people watching this and using it as an example to fuel their racism and stereotypical view on a whole group of people makes my skin crawl.
The rest of the episode was pretty standard for a fantasy suite episode. All the women decided to have the overnight portion with Matt, and we even got to see the incredibly cringe-filled morning-after conversations between the three women as they waited for the next person to go. Also notable is that Matt brought up the conversation he had with his father to all three women during their dates. Again, there is nothing wrong with Matt being open and honest, but I have a strong feeling the show did a horrible job of presenting Matt’s story the way it should’ve been. I can't even imagine how betrayed Matt must feel.
After watching all three dates, I had no idea who would be going home between Michelle and Bri. I totally knew that Rachael was staying though (the show kind of gave it away with the random fireworks show they got that no one else did). Michelle got the first rose, which left Rachael with the final rose.
So we are just one week away from the finale. At this point, I’m looking forward to the After The Final Rose special more than anything else. The Bachelor just continues to prove that everything they have done so far has been performative. Chris Harrison’s appearance on GMA last week gave me the feeling that he might actually be back. Also keep in mind that Chris Harrison is an executive producer on the show. From what it looks like, they’ve only put BIPOC contestants on screen to save face without making any real change from the inside out.